Thursday, 13 May 2010

Icon #52 JFK

The most iconic politician ever.
Some one today, it was @fatmanSlimming, said that the deeper you look the less you like about politicians.  That made it a tough call today because the ones I like aren't actually politicians at all.  Stand up Che Guevara.  So I've gone with someone that I remember my parents talking about in revered terms who's death still seems to hang over America.

And it is the assassination of John F Kennedy that arguably makes him such a huge icon.  You can almost see the American dream dying alongside him in Dallas.  It's nearly 50 years since he was shot dead by Lee Harvey Oswald, sorry conspiracy theory fans but Oliver Stone's film is a crock of shit.  However it's the confusion and sheer violence of it all, that holds such fascination.  That someone would want to kill this young vibrant President still, even now, seems unbelievable.

If you look back at his record in office it's not as spectacular as you might think.  The Bay of Pigs was hardly a success.  The Cuban Missile Crisis, despite not ending in World War III, was still a crisis.  He also escalated the amount of troops that the US had in Vietnam during the build up to the war, although one could argue that it may have played out differently if he'd not been killed.

I think America looks at Kennedy and almost bestows upon him all the attributes it wants for itself posthumously.  He was a man of the 60s, that decade we all hear so much about and he was one of the first politicians to use television to grab the hearts and minds of a country and also most of the world.  He took part in the first ever televised presidential debate, looking smooth and calm next to the ruffled Nixon.

More than anything the man is remembered for what he said.

Look at David Cameron's speech this week outside of 10 Downing Street as he became Prime Minister and you can hear echoes of Kennedy's 'Ask not at what you can do for your country...' speech from 1961.  It's also pretty rare for me to not have to go to a quotes site to well, get the quotes.  With Kennedy, I just know them.

Yes, America and the rest of the World wonders what kind of America we'd have today if it wasn't for Kennedy's assassination.  He embodied that clean cut USA of the time.  That firm belief in the American dream, that all men could be heroes.  He sent America to the moon and with them the rest of the World.  Would the USA be different if he'd not been killed?  Probably not.  America is what it is.  A behemoth of a country, diverse, confused, conservative by nature and very central to it's own universe.  One of the great joys of my twitter experience continues to be my ability to chat with our cousins across the pond.  But truthfully, I could never live there.  It's a country of too many extremes, both good and bad.  Kennedy represents an ideal.  One that America can't live up to and one that Kennedy and his philandering also failed to truly represent.

His death shocked the World.  Rocked it even.  The most powerful man on the planet brought down by one of his own.  Those flickering images of Jackie Kennedy stretching back over the rear of the open top car to grab part of her husbands head are still haunting all these years later.
'Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in.'  - JFK (West Berlin 1963)   
Tonight's post is dedicated to (from twitter) @jeninher30s, @moviegrrl, @jaxsensie, @Girl_In_A_Box, @nicky_T, @FionaKyle, @FatmanSlimming, @formulaic666 (via facebook) and (from facebook) Toby .